At least that appears to be the case outside Los Angeles’ Wi Spa, where demonstrators have been protesting the spa’s trans-friendly policy for two weekends now. According to the Guardian, dozens of people were arrested after Saturday’s protests, which have been made up of far-right protesters including the Proud Boys, as well as anti-fascist counter-protesters. Los Angeles police were reportedly on the scene in riot gear, firing bean bag rounds and rubber bullets.
The anti-trans panic was spurred by a video posted to Instagram in June, which shows a customer complaining to Wi Spa staff about seeing a trans woman in the women’s changing area. “I’m recording this because I’m gonna make a big deal,” the woman says in the video, which now has over 88,000 likes on Instagram. “I’m gonna take this very worldwide.”
Days later, hoards of right-wing protesters showed up to the Koreatown spa, holding anti-trans signs with slogans like “protect female spaces” and “It’s worse in women’s shelters,” the Guardian reports. Chants—perhaps unsurprisingly—later came to include “Save our children,” the signature call of QAnon conspiracy theorists.
The escalating protests are just the latest example of how easily anti-trans sentiment descends into full-blown conspiracy. Much of conservatives’ war on trans people relies on raising the specter of trans women—or girls–as predators, assaulting other women and girls in single-gender spaces.
For years, anti-trans politicians used bathrooms as the backdrop for their bigoted policies; a more recent spate of anti-LGBTQ legislation argues against allowing trans girls to participate in school sports. In both instances, it is only a short road to QAnon’s core tenets, which claim that a cabal of pedophiles—specifically liberal ones—are running a global sex-trafficking ring. A person who takes this to be true would inevitably see a Los Angeles spa that allows trans women to use the women’s facilities (where young girls are also present, as the woman in the Instagram video reminded her followers) as further evidence of such a conspiratorial plot. And as is the case with politicians’ unfounded lies about trans attacks on cis women in bathrooms and changing rooms, reality needn’t cohere to these beliefs for them to be acted on.